By Our Reporter
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has closed its case in a £2.6 billion alleged fraud charge slammed on an oil firm, Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited, a consultant to the company and three of its directors.
The Consultant is Abayomi Kukoyi (Trading under the name and style of Gladstone Kukoyi & Associates), while the company’s directors on trial are Prince Kingsley Okpala, Prince Chidi Okpalaeze and Prince Emmanuel Okpalaeze
While closing its case before Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday, the anti-graft agency called its last witness, Nathaniel John Webb, a senior investigative officer at the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom.
Giving his evidence before the court, Detective Sergeant Webb told Justice Liman that the NCA was assigned to investigate the activities and status of the two firms, Gazeaft Ltd and Goldmatic Ltd, that were allegedly used by the defendants to perpetrate the crime.
The witness also informed the court how he made enquiries at Barclays Bank in London on the status of these two firms and found out that they have both been been wound up and the accounts closed in 1987 and 1989 respectively. He further told the court that when the cheque for £2.6 billion drawn on Gazeaft Limited was presented to Union Bank for clearing in 1994, the company and its account at Barclay’s Bank were not in existence. He also told the court that there was no evidence of the lodgement of the £2.6 billion cheque at Barclays Bank at any time during the existence of Gazeaft Limited and while the account was in existence.
Earlier, an investigative officer with the EFCC, Suleiman Yusuf, had also testified in the matter. In his evidence-in-chief, Sulaiman told the court that he was part of the team that arrested the defendants.
“I am one of the team that investigated this matter. We investigated the matter as a team, and I played many roles at the time. During the investigation, the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the United Kingdom was contacted for enquiries on the two firms used in perpetrating the fraud”, the witness said. The report of the investigation of the NCA was sent to the Attorney-General of the Federation and has been tendered as evidence before the court”.
Following the conclusion of EFCC’s case, the defence lawyers informed the court that their clients would be filing a no case submission.
The EFCC had on 27th January 2021 re-arraigned the four Directors on a 13-count charge of alleged £2.6 billion fraud. They were earlier on February 13, 2020, arraigned by the anti-graft agency on a 7-count charge bordering on the alleged offence. The defendants’ trial subsequently resumed after they all pleaded not guilty to the amended charge.
One of the counts against the defendants read as thus:
“That you Petro Union Oil and Gas Limited, Prince Isaac Okpala (now deceased), Abayomi Kukoyi, Prince Kingsley Okpala, Prince Chidi Okpalaeze, Prince Emmanuel Okpalaeze and Princess Gladys Okpalaeze (now at large) on or about 29th December, 1994 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court fraudulently procured a Barclays Bank cheque dated 29th December, 1994 in the sum of £2,556,000,000.00 made payable to Gladstone Kukoyi and Associates, purporting the said cheque to be meant for foreign investment in the construction of 3 refineries and petrochemical complex in Nigeria, when you knew that the said cheque to be false and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(2) (a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and punishable under same Section”.
Further hearing in the matter has been adjourned to June 21 for the hearing of the defendants’ no case submission.